The Strike That Wasn’t

Spearhead Opinion – 29.09.2016

Indian DGMOIndia’s NDTV showed a turbaned Sikh Director General Military Operations (DGMO) announcing that India had carried out a surgical strike against ‘camps for terrorists training or terror pads’ across the LOC (Line of Control) in Pakistan. He added that significant damage had been inflicted and that captured ‘terrorists’ were available for investigation by Pakistan. His last words were that India had no intention of doing anything else — almost pleading that they be let off the hook by accepting what he had said they had done. Pakistan almost immediately termed the Indian assertion a lie and said that India had violated the cease fire on the LOC by unprovoked firing and that Pakistan had retaliated strongly because two of its soldiers had been martyred in the firing. The Pakistani ISPR asked that how come those against who the ‘surgical strike’ was carried out did not know about it?

The Indian DGMO with a petrified Ministry of External Affairs representative by his side gave scant details beyond mentioning some items with Pakistani markings. Subsequent reports added that the ‘strike’ was in the dead of night and that it was by heliborne or para-dropped troops at ‘eight or five’ ‘targets’ 2 kilometers across the LOC in Pakistan. The heliborne or para dropped idea probably came in when a Pakistani analyst talked of minefields and fortifications all along the LOC that ground troops could not have negotiated. Not stated but implicit in their claim was the assertion that all troops and helicopters returned safely and there was no counter move or fire by the Pakistani side. Smooth as silk — except that there was no strike or maybe they ordered their troops to strike and they did not or maybe artillery firing qualifies as a ‘strike”! Endless possibilities!

Several questions arise. Would Pakistanis be so stupid as to activate as many as eight ‘training camps or pads’ along the LOC to launch infiltrators so soon after the URI attack by Kashmiri militants?; especially when Indians were screaming their heads off about retaliatory action? Would they have items with Pakistani markings lying around to be picked up- or would they send in attackers with even a single scrap that could link them to Pakistan? Who are the unfortunate people tortured into confessing that they are ‘Pakistani terrorists’ who were lined up for crossing into Indian Held Kashmir and waiting to be captured? Similar doubts were raised after red-faced Indians deflected their security lapses by blaming Pakistan for Uri even before the attack was over — was it an attack at all or an orchestrated event before the UNGA meeting? — an event that went wrong when a fuel dump blew up killing too many soldiers! Knowing that India could buckle under political, media and public pressure and do something foolhardy would the Pakistanis leave the LOC unguarded — surely they would have taken basic security measures especially when an attack of some kind across the LOC was one of the options that the Indians said they were considering.

The Indian claim of a cross LOC surgical strike is similar to an earlier claim about cross border action across the border into Myanmar to retaliate against ‘insurgents based there”. Myanmar had denied that any such attack had ever been carried out. India needs to look inwards — not across the LOC or the border. It needs to look inwards and review its policy towards Kashmir and Pakistan to create an environment conducive to peace and harmony. This will lead to reciprocal changes all around and open the door for dialogue, information sharing and joint action.

(Spearhead Opinion pieces are collaborative efforts)